Janina's father, engineer and entrepreneur Pete Gavankar, came to the United States to pursue his master's degree in engineering. He grew up with R D Burman in India and was responsible for producing Burman's only American album, Pantera.
An article in Filmfare magazine, dating back to 1984, describes Pete Gavankar as a micro-chip genius. "He is one of those over-achieving types," quips Janina. Her mother Mohra Gavankar who grew up in Mumbai and moved to America after marriage, is currently a columnist with The Herald News and also a community volunteer.
"My parents raised us so we never had to feel confused between two cultures. They didn't want us to feel we were different in a bad way. When I was growing up, I always felt I was special because I was Indian and different," says Janina, who admits she feels 'atrociously American' whenever she visits India. She also regrets never having learnt Hindi or Marathi. "My parents would use it as a code language so we wouldn't understand what they were saying."
Since moving to Los Angeles, she certainly misses her family. "At some point, I had to take the plunge and move. I had to start all over again because I didn't know if the world was going to accept me or not. But I went to every audition I could; every time they would accept a brown girl in the room, I was there," she jokes. Playing a lesbian character was not an issue. "I've had gay friends since I was very young and have no problems whatsoever with homosexuality or in portraying it," she says.
Besides The L Word, she has made appearances in the television series Girlfriends and Strong Medicine. Her recent movie appearance includes the Indie film Bull Run, a story of five divorced fathers and the impact of their crumbling relationships on their children. Other films in the past have included horror flick Cup of My Blood and Barbershop.
Also read: Exclusive! Meera Jasmine speaks